Monster Commerce, Volusion, ProStores, etc. – an honest review
For about six months now, we have been reviewing various ecommerce solutions and content management systems (CMS).Â We have several clients in need of a new website or a rewrite of a current website.Â Some clients could use two, three, or more new websites.Â
As a side thought, we have a couple ecommerce websites that Jason runs for me.Â All of us are in this together, so I set out to do a thorough review.
To start with, here are the features I was looking for…
- A new, good, clean design (or to transfer a current design)
- Ability to edit the basic information on the pages
- Simple to edit ecommerce
- A capable company that will support and assist with the website
- Search engine friendly design / ability to optimize
Given the above, we’ve been trying (internally and for clients) all of the major players, including Yahoo Stores, ProStores, Volusion, Monster Commerce, and some local web developers.Â Here are our observations…
I’ve only had one client that owned a Yahoo Store.Â Yet, I’ve always stayed away from them.Â My friends at yDesigns have recently been stating that Yahoo is starting to get more responsive to their needs.Â But traditionally they have not been very supportive.Â They also use RTML, which is a proprietary language used by the Yahoo! Store software.Â Finally, they take a cut for every sale you make.Â Not exactly ideal.
We own a Monster Commerce site and were fairly pleased with it.Â Their prices are a little high, but they don’t take a cut for every sale you make.Â Besides, if you are all that concerned about paying $99 instead of $79 for your store, you probably don’t have a very good ecommerce product.Â What’s twenty bucks when you are selling any quantity of product.Â Monster Commerce was also fairly easy to use.Â The few times we called their support, they were VERY helpful and friendly.Â I actually enjoyed talking to them.
So what was the downside?Â Although Monster Commerce is easy to use, Jason tells me that it does not have all the features and customization ability that Volusion has.Â It also is somewhat lacking in SEO features.Â For example, you cannot customize title tags for product pages.Â It’s true!Â Come on guys, that’s SEO 101.Â Not having this could really hurt your opportunities for organic rankings.Â The URLs are pretty weak and the pages are far from W3C compliant.Â This is all basic SEO stuff that they need to catch up on.
We also own a Volusion site.Â This is Jason’s favorite.Â He uses it daily and likes that you can do a lot with it.Â You can edit most anything with this store.Â Personally, I think it’s a little cumbersome to use.Â It seems to be built by programmers for programmers.Â I also don’t like the fact that they lack any decent templates.Â As far as I can tell, they don’t offer any design services and their help files are quite lacking.
I have had two clients that own ProStores.Â Both of them have a hard time getting all of their product pages indexed by the search engines.Â Not sure why.Â ProStores are owned and operated by eBay, so I guess there is some good integration there, but I have not seen it in action.Â Similar to Yahoo Stores, they also charge a percentage of sales and work with a proprietary language called SSML.
What about local options?
Totsie is a long time colleague and is practically famous in the Asheville, NC area.Â She is now creating Plone websites and is doing a great job.Â I would highly recommend her to anyone that wants someone local and needs a great design.Â The only challenges with using Totsie is that Plone is a great CMS, but is not really focusing on ecommerce right now.Â She’s also quite busy.Â SoÂ you may have to wait a little while if you want a great site from her.
Alec Fehl of Jacalart also has a great CMS that he has created.Â I have recommended Alec to many clients and they are always pleased with his work.Â I do believe his sites work well with ecommerce as well.Â The only challenge to Alec’s site is that his CMS sites are built by him personally.Â So although he is always very responsive, especially via email, you do not have a company supporting the product, just an individual.
The bottom line is that all of the above have pros and cons.
In other words, for several months now we have been struggling to find a good company that can make an ecommerce product with a good design and built in content management that will rank well on the search engines.